FINAL GEMS2 - Rachel Nitzarim Gems Final Paper Opal An opal...

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Rachel Nitzarim Gems Final Paper May 14, 2007 Opal An opal is traditionally given as a gift to symbolize hope, happiness and truth. Opals have been treasured for many years and have a rich history in various ancient lands. The name opal probably derives from ‘upala’, which is an Indian-Sanskirt word for precious stone. The opals used by the Romans came from Dubnik near Presov, Slovakia. The Aztecs mined Central American opal and some fine pieces were sent back to Europe by the Spanish Conquistadors. All of these findings lead up to the discovery of high quality opal in Australia during the 1870s. Once they were found in great abundance in Australia, Europe’s production of the stone greatly decreased (Oldershaw, 2001). Today, Australia is still the principle source of black and white opals. Opals can be found all over Australia, especially in the outback. Due to their great presence in the land, opals are also Australia's National gemstone. Even though opals were officially discovered by the Europeans in Australia and then became a great commodity during the late 1870s; they were around for a long time before their official discovery. The Australian aborigines, the native Australian people, had an ancient legend surrounding the presence of the beautiful opal on their land: The creator came down to Earth on a rainbow, in order to bring the message of peace to all the humans. And at the very spot, where his foot touched the ground, the stones became alive and started sparkling in all the colors’ of the rainbow! This according to Australian’s aboriginals was how opals were born (Oldershaw, 2001). Of course, the aboriginals were not correct in their mystical explanation of opals and the study of geology has provided many facts about the gem. There are actually three
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different varieties of opals. The first type of opal is the precious opal which includes white and black opals. Precious opals are available in a spectrum of colors that changes with the angle at which the gem is viewed. A white opal is a dense stone in which the colors appear as flashes or speckles. A black opal contains “fire” and has a dark body color. These gems are less common and tend to be very pricy. There are also fire opals and common opals. Fire opals are transparent or translucent with an orange or red body color. Fire opals are named for their color which is actually the same as fire (a combination of red, orange and yellow)! The last opal subset is the common opal. Common opals tend to be rather thick or dense. Many names are used to describe its varieties, some include: honey opal, milk opal and moss opal. These are just some of the characteristics that are used to differentiate the different opal assortments. All of the different opal types have their own properties that make them unique to one another (Anderson, 1976).
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